By Fatima Mohammed-Lawal
Ms Uko Itohowo, director of the national tuberculosis and leprosy control program, says COVID-19 has worsened tuberculosis (TB) cases in Nigeria, as around 60% of patients go unnoticed and go untreated.
Itohowo said this Monday at a virtual media seminar with reporters in Ilorin.
She said that according to the 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) report, Nigeria is ranked first among major tuberculosis cases in Africa and sixth in the world.
She said that currently TB kills 18 Nigerians every hour, with a record 47 Nigerians developing active TB every hour, seven of whom are children.
Itohowo observed that all the attention was focused on COVID-19 at the expense of tuberculosis, which is also a fatal disease.
She said that although tuberculosis is a fatal disease, it can be cured with proper treatment.
“The inability of TB patients to access drugs during the COVID-19 lockdown has exacerbated the spread of TB in Nigeria.
“For example, around 150,000 people died from tuberculosis in Nigeria in 2019 alone, according to a report by the World Health Organization,” she said.
Itohowo listed the symptoms of tuberculosis as fever, weight loss, and prolonged cough.
She said, however, that unlike misinformation, tuberculosis is curable, and urged people with persistent cough that has lasted for two weeks to get tested.
She said that with early diagnosis, tuberculosis could be cured within six months, adding that tuberculosis treatment was free at designated hospitals across the country.
“Tuberculosis is not spread by shaking someone’s hand, sharing food, touching bed linen or toilet seats, or sharing toothbrushes.
“Tuberculosis is also not contracted by witchcraft, but airborne,” she explained.
Itohowo therefore appealed to media professionals to help raise public awareness about the causes, prevention and treatment of the disease.
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